Whether you call yourself a small business owner, solo/entrepreneur, independent contractor or founder of a startup, the need to market and find new business is in your control.
I think the opportunity for meeting potential clients and referral sources through the power of networking in NYC is the easiest. Between the internet and the proliferation of diverse networking groups, if you’re willing to put in the time, your business won’t be a secret for long.
The benefits of networking
I find that networking is the art of connecting to one another and finding common ground, using your social, verbal and body language skills to raise awareness of what you have to offer.
I say it’s an art because it’s definitely something that has to be developed and honed. Some people are naturals – outgoing, friendly and interested in what others are saying. Others are just salespeople – they’re focused on themselves, looking for a quick connection (like a hit and run) and if they don’t immediately see potential in their “victim” – they’re on to the next.
The third type are quiet and perhaps shy, but once they’re warmed up, there’s no stopping them (that’s me, actually.)
The benefits of networking include immediate referrals, little or no cost to attend events, potential friendships, far-reaching exposure when you speak to someone who is well-connected and a customized message based on the person you’re speaking to.
Phonies need not apply
The best networkers are genuine. They tend to be givers and connectors, being more interested in what you do and who they can introduce you to. It’s a “pay it forward” mentality that is from the heart.
As with any type of interaction, you have to find the right fit for you, your personality type and membership demographic. Some people want a purely business environment and gravitate toward BNI meetings, which is very structured and consistent.
Others like a mix of business and social events, with structure on the business side but in a relaxed, friendly environment as well as social events planned each month.
Inside Network Network
Network Network has a format that I really enjoy. Created by Dave Bresler, there are 11 different groups that each meet once a month in a conference room setting. It’s usually limited to 14 people per meeting, each in a different industry. The meetings are two hours, starting at 8am and include breakfast.
Each session is divided into three sections. First, each person around the table has one minute to say their name, their company and one sentence to describe what they do. Then the moderator selects an individual to speak for 4 minutes, regulated by an egg timer. The amount of time is perfect and allows you to give detailed insight into one facet of your business, tell a success story or whatever you think will paint the picture to make a lasting impression on your fellow networkers.
At the end of the four minutes, others in the group may offer to introduce you to someone in their network. If you want an introduction, you’ll follow up with that person after the meeting to make those arrangements. From your very first meeting, you will almost certainly make immediate connections for additional exposure or potential business.
The last section of each meeting is called “Around the Horn.” Someone in the group poses a business-related question that they’re facing a challenge with. The goal of the exercise is not to give a solution to the problem but to relate how you’ve personally dealt with the same or similar situation.
Once the formal part of the meeting is concluded, there’s always time afterward for casual networking and catching up.
There are two monthly events that are held in addition to the networking session and all members are invited to attend. One is called “The Forum” – which starts out with informal networking with breakfast and is structured around a presentation by a speaker on a topic that explores different services to grow your business. I’ve never found these to be “salesy” but rather very informative regarding something that I was most likely unaware of its existence.
The third event is totally casual. Held at a local bar, members get together in a relaxed, after-work environment and mix in a social atmosphere with new connections made effortlessly.
Here’s the most important part of any networking contact you make – you have to go beyond the initial introduction. The key is getting together for a cup of coffee or maybe a bite to eat. Just by spending an hour or so together, it gives you the opportunity to talk about more than business. You have the chance to learn about each other as people, see what common interests you have and show a bit of your personality. In a short amount of time, you’ll go from being a stranger in a new environment, to having a lot of acquaintances to making some new and meaningful friendships.
Inside Adrian’s Network
Once you start seeing the benefits of networking, you’re hooked. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Adrian’s Network by Adrian herself. I attended one meeting as a guest and knew I had to join.
What differentiates Adrian’s is that it’s a mix of businesses from Long Island, Manhattan and New Jersey and there are 10 meetings a month – both live and virtual (over the phone.)
My favorite part is the monthly spotlight. Each member has a specific day that they can send out an email to everyone in the group, writing exactly what they want to convey for that month. As an email, it has the added bonuses of 1) no time limit 2) the ability to provide links or attachments to websites, videos and marketing materials and 3) you can file these for reference in the future or forwarding to someone who may have an interest.
For those who think their market focus is too specific or they’re looking to join an affinity group of like-minded individuals, Meetup.com may be the place you’re looking for.
There are literally thousands of groups in Manhattan that cover every possible category of interest, business or social, that you can imagine.
Since I work primarily with startups and small business owners, I attend a lot of events with this focus. Yet I felt there was an opportunity to create a group that would hold events to motivate and encourage these types of entrepreneurs. As a result, I created a meetup called NYC Startup Conversations for Success.
The first event is the NYC film screening of “The Startup Kids” which is a documentary about young web entrepreneurs. I saw the movie and thought it was excellent. As I did some research, I found out that it was never shown in NYC, so I contacted the filmmakers and retained the distribution rights to show it here.
This will set the tone for the group and I’ve already created the guidelines for our future speakers. creating a “TED Talk” type event, where ideas are expressed rather than services being sold in a thinly-veiled sales presentation.
I’m happy to report that within a week of announcing the group, membership continues to increase every day and tickets to the movie are selling at a nice pace.
As a gift to my readers, if you’d like to attend the movie screening, visit the site HERE and enter SPACESNY for the promocode and you’ll get in for free!
What are you waiting for?
So you may not be blogging on a daily basis or have the budget to do big advertising campaigns. You should, at the very least, be networking. Don’t know where to start? Reach out to me and I’ll help you break the ice.